Municipal waste statistics for Ireland

EPA waste data release 27 November 2023. Latest reference year 2021 (Data subject to Eurostat validation)

Municipal waste is made up of household waste and commercial waste that is similar to household waste. The EPA reports data on how much municipal waste is generated and how it is treated.

Our national municipal waste data releases are based on information compiled in line with European rules. For reporting year 2020, Europe changed those rules and the municipal waste information from 2020 onwards is therefore not directly comparable to earlier data.

In 2021, Ireland generated 3.17 million tonnes of municipal waste and recycled 41 per cent of it.


MSW arriving and being picked for initial sorting

What is municipal waste?

In our everyday lives we produce a general mix of waste in our homes, offices, schools and similar premises. This type of waste is called municipal waste. It is usually collected at kerbside or we can bring it to collection centres such as bring banks or civic amenity facilities. The amount of municipal waste generated is an important measure of how wasteful our everyday lives are.

Municipal Waste includes the following waste types:

  • Residual (i.e. black bin) waste is mostly mixed waste that cannot be recycled.
  • Recyclable (i.e. green bin or segregated) waste is, for example, clean glass, plastic, paper, cardboard and metals.
  • Biowaste (i.e. brown bin) waste is mainly food and garden waste.
  • Bulky waste does not fit into a wheelie bin and is, for example, broken furniture, carpets, toys etc.
  • Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE).


Key findings for 2021

  • Ireland generated 3.17 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2021, which is comparable (down one per cent) to the 3.2 million tonnes generated in 2020 (refer to Table 1). Between 2016 and 2021, municipal waste increased from 2.7 million tonnes to 3.17 million tonnes.
  • Of this, 57 per cent came from households and 43 per cent from commercial and public service sources (refer to Table 2).
  • Some 1.3 million tonnes of municipal waste generated in Ireland was recycled in 2021, resulting in a recycling rate of 41 per cent [1]. This indicates that we face significant challenges to meet the upcoming EU recycling targets for 2025 to 2035 [2] (refer to Figure 1).
  • Of the municipal waste recycled in 2021, 824,969 tonnes went for material recycling (down 14 per cent on 2020) and 487,594 tonnes were composting/anaerobic digestion (up 39 per cent on 2020) (Table 1 and Figure 2). The large increase of composted/anaerobically digested biowaste is mainly due to a change in our way of estimating home composting.
  • A rounded 1.3 million tonnes of Ireland’s municipal waste went for incineration with energy recovery in 2021. This tonnage is 42 per cent of municipal waste managed and a marginal decrease on the 43 per cent achieved in 2020. The 2021 rate continues a downward trend of the share of municipal waste incinerated with energy recovery. (Figure 3). 
  • Ireland’s landfill rate for municipal waste managed was 16 per cent in 2021, and therefore the same as in 2020. There has been a steep decline in Ireland’s landfill rate for municipal waste from over 80 per cent in 2001. Ireland must reduce the share of municipal waste landfilled to 10 per cent or less by 2035, which includes waste landfilled at each step along the waste treatment process in Ireland and abroad.
  • Ireland’s reliance on the export of municipal waste abroad for final treatment decreased further in 2021 (Table 4). An estimated 38 per cent (1.2 million tonnes) of all municipal waste managed was exported abroad in 2021, down from 40 per cent in 2020. Of the waste exported, most went for material recycling [3] (57 per cent) or energy recovery (32 per cent) while 11 per cent went for composting or anaerobic digestion.

Figure 1. Ireland's generation and recycling of municipal waste compared to EU targets.

A graph showing the municipal waste generated from 2010 to 2035







Figure 3. Trends in the management of municipal waste in Ireland, 2010 to 2021.

Graph displaying trends in the management of municipal waste from 2010 to 2021



Figure 4. Tonnage of municipal waste generated and gross national disposable income, 2010 to 2021.

Graph showing tonnage of municipal waste generated from 2010 to 2021 and disposable income in millions



The 2021 data highlight the need for implementing policy measures to prevent municipal waste and break the link between economic growth and waste generation. Municipal waste generation grew by over 400,000 tonnes, or 15 per cent, between 2016 and 2021. Correlating trends between municipal waste generation and disposable income (refer to Figure 4) over this period suggest a strong link between economic and waste growth.

The quantity of waste recycled [1] has kept pace with the increases in waste generation, and the rate of recycling has therefore changed little. In 2016 and 2021, recycling in reference to waste generation was at 41 per cent. The gap to the 2025 target is considerable (14 per cent) and cannot be bridged without targeted interventions.

The measures in place to curb municipal waste generation and/or increase recycling include waste treatment levies, waste collection charges, enforcement action, awareness-raising campaigns and education.

Waste composition analysis carried out by EPA in 2022 documents that almost 70 per cent of non-household waste collected in residual bins could be recycled if it had been placed into the recycling or biowaste collection. The introduction of a mandatory incentivised charging system for non-household municipal waste in 2023 incentivises waste reduction and will boost Ireland's recycling percentages.

Reporting note

Our national municipal waste data releases are based on information that is in line with the data we submit to Eurostat (the statistical office of the European Union) to fulfil our municipal waste reporting obligations. For reporting year 2020, Eurostat changed the reporting rules for municipal waste. The Irish information published in 2019 and earlier years is therefore not directly comparable to the information released from reporting year 2020 on.

The data we submit to Eurostat satisfy our reporting requirements under the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive and the OECD/Eurostat Joint Questionnaire. The data are to be submitted at the end of Q2 of the reference year +2. Following validation by Eurostat, official statistics for Ireland and all Member States are published on the Eurostat website as part of the ‘Municipal waste by waste management operations’ dataset. Data on municipal waste recycling rates for Member States are also published on the Eurostat website.

About Our Waste Statistics

View information about how the EPA compiles and reports Official European Waste Statistics.

[1]  This includes preparing for reuse, material recycling, and composting/anaerobic digestion of biowaste.

[2] The recycling and preparing for reuse percentages under the revised WFD are set to increase to 55 per cent from 2025, 60 per cent from 2030 and 65 per cent from 2035.

[3] Including preparing for reuse and material recycling.